By Kim Bell Post-Dispatch Jefferson City Bureau
St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
Missouri will file suit against leading tobacco companies, charging that they targeted children in ad campaigns and lied about the addictiveness of nicotine, Attorney General Jay Nixon announced Wednesday.
Nixon said the suit, to be filed in state court within a few weeks, will contend that the cigarette manufacturers violated Missouri's consumer-protection laws.
"For too long, there's been a pattern of misrepresentation, both in the amounts and addictive qualities of nicotine and on the marketing to kids," Nixon said. As the country's sentiment against tobacco companies intensifies, Nixon would become the 24th attorney general to follow Mississippi Attorney General Michael C. Moore, who filed suit in 1994. Nixon identified the company defendants as "the big five": Philip Morris Cos., RJR Nabisco, Liggett Group Inc., Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp. and American Tobacco Co. Inc. (The following text appeared in the Three Star Edition only:) Two of the leading companies did not respond to a reporter's questions Wednesday. (End of Three Star text) Philip Morris spokeswoman Patches Magarro said the company would not comment until the suit had been filed. RJR Nabisco could not be reached for comment. Nixon's announcement follows last week's disclosure that tobacco executives have been negotiating a settlement that could cost the industry hundreds of billions of dollars. "Previously, these major tobacco companies had refused even the possibility of settlement, and now there may be an opportunity to settle without protracted and expensive litigation," Nixon said. Missouri consumer-protection laws prohibit "deception, fraud, misrepresentation or suppression of any material fact" in connection with the sale or advertising of merchandise. "We can get $1,000 per violation, and I'm not sure how many packs of cigarettes they sold," Nixon said. "We now have proof that these companies have broken the laws of Missouri by willfully targeting young people and knowingly lying about the addictive nature of nicotine." The industry was rocked when Liggett executives this year admitted that smoking is addictive and turned over sensitive documents to states about the health risks and marketing to youth. …